Sonic scientist Peter Neubäcker of Melodyne has been wowing Internet audiences for some time with the automagical powers of the company’s Direct Note Access (DNA). The vision: manipulate individual pitches as easily as MIDI notes, even in polyphonic passages of a single instrument. At NAMM last month, the company showed the first product, Melodyne editor, due to ship in the spring for US/EUR 349.

There’s just one little catch: a solo developer has beaten them to the punch, at least prior to them shipping their DNA flagship editor tool. And if you want it right now, it’s yours for 25 Euros. (The final version will cost 99 Euros.)

Jonathan Schmid-Burgk, sole developer and a student at Harvard, announces:

The time has come to announce the release of the world’s first published polyphonic tone manipulation software. The dream of musicians to isolate single notes out of chords and so to manipulate most forms of recorded audio has come true on the 20th of January 2009.

Shell out EUR25, and you get a Mac VST plug-in that can manipulate audio easily. With monophonic audio, you can create polyphonic harmonizations. You can isolate and manipulate individual harmonics – meaning not only can you do pitch manipulations, but presumably sound design, as well. You can change individual notes or chords in recorded audio, to fix mistakes or (more interesting) actively recompose audio.

I feel about this the same way I do about Celemony: this gets really interesting when you use it for sound design. For some inspiration, skip this post and head straight for the sound samples on the site:

VisualVox polyphonic 0.9 []

Via the awesome

Also check out his Harmony Improvisator which creatively generates harmonies from MIDI input – an interesting thing to mess around with even for those of us who know / have taught (ahem) classical harmonic theory

Now, VisualVox Polyphonic isn’t without some catches, as you’d expect from the solo-student cheap alternative:

  • It’s Mac-only and VST-only for now. (Just keep in mind, though, that means not only Cubase works but things like Ableton Live on the Mac, as well.)
  • Jonathan warns that there are still some bugs, there are big temporary files, there are occasional glitches in the algorithm, and it doesn’t quite sync properly with hosts, requiring exports.
  • The interface isn’t as slick or fancy as Celemony, and may be slightly less convenient for editing.
  • Update – people are having some significant hosting issues with this. (Your mileage may vary, though the fact that this was tested in Cubase tells me those folks may have better luck.) So stay away if you don’t like bugs – this isn’t a final release. We’ll have more as this evolves, okay?

But here’s why I’m anxious to test it, nonetheless:

  • It’s cheap – meaning it might be more open to people just curious to experiment. (I actually wonder if he shouldn’t keep the EUR25 price and make up for it on volume.)
  • No iLok dongle, as required for Celemony. Correction: Celemony also allows challenge/response — so you have a choice.
  • There are some interesting fine-tuning options for the algorithm and manipulation parameters. That could make this more interesting for sound design – and something even Celemony users might want to run alongside the more polished tool.

In other words, none of this is likely to dampen enthusiasm for Celemony, but that’s a good thing: more is more better. Could this mean the floodgates are about to open for creative sound design tools that mess with audio in new ways? Hey, I hope so.

If anyone tests this, we’d love your report – and sound examples.

  • Truly massive, I think I might have to grab a copy and have a little fun (even though I've sworn off producing music for the time being) …

  • HELL YEAH! Let's put a FIRE RED background behind it!

    It's not ugly AT ALL.

  • RCUS

    Boooo. U guess I'll just sit and stare at the screenshot for now <—–windows XP user

  • RCUS

    Boooo. I guess I'll just sit and stare at the screenshot for now <—–windows XP user

  • contakt

    Glad you did something on this!

    I have been meaning to DL the past two weekends but have gotten tied up.

    I need to get off my ass and try this bad boy out.

  • Wow, $50 is a great price for that much power. Too bad the upgrade to version one costs double the original price. Still a great value though.

  • spinner

    He he just got it, no pub for me tonight. Word of warning tho if you're thinking of getting it. The web checkout got this "Extended download" feature that essentially means they'll store it for a year.
    You need to UNCHECK it otherwise you'll be a fool like me and pay an extra £5 for it 🙁 A CD is a lot cheaper…. Oh well, off to retune the Bach collection!

  • spinner

    Well tried it in Live and it immediately crashed. Sent the reports to the guy, sure it's just some buggelyboo.

    Looks like I'll be in pub tonight after all 🙂

  • manuel

    Does anyone know if this tools use Spectral modulation synthesis ?

  • robb

    Makes no sound and doesn't save valid audio files in Live 7 == useless. I hope they get it working. Oh, btw, on re-read I see that you wrote A WHOLE ARTICLE ABOUT A PLUGIN YOU YOURSELF HAVE NOT RUN. Good job, thanks.

  • What's up with the H note at the top?? It's where B should be… I love the H note… It's almost as good as the G + 1.

  • Well, Robb…
    a) we know now what's up with it thanks to the community of readers here
    b) putting things on this site *has* been known in the past to light a fire under developers
    So, easy, man, easy…

  • Andrew

    SPEAR does something sort of similar for free:
    I think this is honestly the sort of thing where it's not too difficult to throw something together that works sometimes, but it's a pretty hard problem to make a robust solution that works on a lot of different kinds of polyphonic audio.

  • Ben

    I'm confused, I've been using Melodyne Studio Edition, with direct note access to polyphonic material, in my studio for the last six months, so how has this beaten them to getting a product to market?

  • Ruud

    You have the choice to use the Melodyne plugin with or without any iLok dongle. If you choose to work without the dongle it works via challenge response, and the plugin is restricted for usage on a few computers (two is the maximum, if I remember correctly).

  • @Ruud: Thanks for the correction.

    To all — I agree, absolutely. I didn't mean to imply that this would be in any way a Celemony killer. I was just interested that there's another tool developing, and honestly, if it *doesn't* work quite correctly all the time, that could be interesting. (Well, not if the developer stumbles over plug-in bugs — that's obviously a pain for everyone, the dev included, and VST programming in general isn't much fun. But if the algorithm produces some different results, that could be great.)

  • We shall see who makes a Pro Tool scompatable plugin first…

  • mhulot

    This is pretty cool, but I am pretty confused about one thing… the note staff only shows one octave and i can't figure out how to examine notes above or below the view…

  • RCUS

    Hmmm, sounds like XP users win after all!!! I kid, I kid…

  • contakt

    hmmm. Anyone have this working w/ Live & on OS 10.5? Now I am scared to buy b/c people are having problems with it.

    I tried to DL his free Visual Vox VST but I can't seem to get it to work. It's a .dll – is that Windows only? Us Mac users are clueless 🙂

  • contakt

    @ Andrew:

    Tell me more about SPEAR. I read the page, but the site hurts my simple brain. What does it do? What do you use it for.

    Will be DLing this weekend to give it a go.

  • @contakt, yes that free VisualVox VST is Windows only.

    It's a shame that VisualVox polyphonic doesn't work with Live. The Harmony Improvisator plug-in was tested in Live 7 so I wonder why this one wasn't.

  • Cool stuff. I'm hoping this means a relatively inexpensive Windows version, or another alternative, will show up.

    Mostly I want this for transformation of samples, not peformance correction per se. If it has a few interesting glitches, that could be a bonus or an annoyance depending on what they are 🙂

  • Thanks for all the info on this, folks, really…

    I'm with foosnark. I'd actually be really happy with a DIY approach to this technique that doesn't actually work right but produces interesting results. 🙂 I'll have to start experimenting.

    Of course, the recompositional approach here and in Celemony is likewise interesting.

  • spinner

    @Ben. So you've got a beta?;…

  • spinner

    I sent my crash report to the VV programmer Jonathan. He kindly supplied me with a version that's running fine in Live.
    Don't really understand what you guys have an issue with. It clearly states on the website that this is a beta. Hence the price!

    Having absolutely no clue how this actually works I did read up on what some brighter people had to say about DNA after the press release. As far as I can tell Melodyne is using existing math to get this working. If that's the case then we're hopefully likely to see more products of this type in the future. I agree tho with the person who said that programming this is one thing and putting together a stable & fully compatible product is another.

  • @Ben: Melodyne 3 has some polyphonic capabilities but definitely not direct note access. Take a look at this video around 2 minutes in and tell us if you can do this.

  • 7oi

    I went and bought it, tried it in Live 7 on osx 10.5.6 and it didn't crash. Managed to put in a guitar and mess with it, worked nicely yet sounded very rough, even with messing around the controls. Rough in an interesting way, though. Can make quite nice lofi sounding stuff. I'm definitely going to use this one. Of course it all depends on the sounds your using, how it's going to sound in the end result. Can imagine this can do nice, interesting sounding stuff with vocals, with the right/wrong settings.

  • ztutz

    Agree with Andrew. SPEAR is a much better implementation, and it is free. The UI of this VST is terrible, and it barely runs.

  • vstlink

    SPEAR is nice tool for spectrum editing,
    but it is incomplete for polyphonic pitch editing, IMO.
    It lacks concept of independent note and harmonic shift.